Update on Arthur Alan Wolk's Lawsuit Against Reason
For those of you who were wondering about Arthur Alan Wolk's litigation against me and Reason, I am happy to report that the situation has been resolved without compromising our commitment to freedom of speech. Wolk, a Philadelphia-based aviation lawyer, sued us after I noted the dismissal of a libel suit he had filed over a 2007 Overlawyered post by Ted Frank. Describing the case on this blog in August 2010, I quoted Frank's post, which did not strike me as libelous but which I was not in any event endorsing. When Wolk complained a month later, I wrote an addendum and a new post, both of which summarized his response to what he believed Frank had implied.
That much seemed reasonable to me, but Wolk nevertheless threatened to sue us as well as readers who had posted comments in response to my September 2010 post. Although we removed the most objectionable comments promptly, Wolk claimed his reputation had already been damaged. Last October he sued us in Pennsylvania, citing not only my posts but also the reader remarks (even though federal law shields websites from liability for visitors' comments) and a third post in which Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch asked readers to stop commenting about Wolk.
There followed a year of legal maneuvering. We engaged in sporadic settlement negotiations but firmly resisted Wolk's demands that we remove our posts and never talk about his lawsuit again. Wolk sought to keep the case in state court, while we sought to have it heard in federal court. After settlement discussions reached an impasse in July, Wolk dismissed his original case against us but filed a new complaint in Pennsylvania making bizarre claims against us and others, including charges of anti-Semitism, a description of a vast conspiracy to attack trial lawyers and undermine the justice system, and allegations of harassment, assault, and extortion. Wolk added our attorney, Gayle Sproul, and her law firm as defendants. Wolk also threatened to sue two bloggers who commented on his litigation.
On August 1, Wolk dropped his Pennsylvania complaint, and on the same day he filed a similar one in California, where the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit organization that publishes Reason magazine and this website, is based. On August 12 he dropped the California complaint as well, and he recently agreed to a resolution consisting of mutual releases in which he promises not to sue us again for our past posts and we promise not to sue him over his litigation so far. That's about as good an outcome as we could have reasonably expected, since the main issue for us all along has been maintaining the freedom to report and comment on issues of public concern. We are glad the litigation is over and grateful to Gayle Sproul for her patient, able, and indefatigable assistance in achieving that end.
Wolk also has reached a settlement agreement with Overlawyered that includes the following joint statement:
Arthur Alan Wolk, Esquire, Walter K. Olson, David M. Nieporent, Esquire and Overlawyered.com agreed to settle Wolk's longstanding libel claims against Overlawyered.com, et al.
The parties agreed to dismiss with prejudice all litigation pending between them and also agreed to release each other from all claims. Overlawyered.com removed from its web site certain posts about Wolk that led to the case as well as other posts that commented on the case's dismissal by the Court last August. Wolk removed from his web site a post he wrote about Overlawyered.com.
Upon submission of materials to Overlawyered.com in the litigation, Overlawyered learned that Wolk took precautions for his clients in the Taylor v. Teledyne case.
With the release of this statement, Overlawyered.com and Wolk will have nothing further to say on these matters and ask all others on the internet to take down their posts concerning this dispute since the controversy now has been settled on an amicable basis and should be laid to rest.
The fact that the case has been settled, of course, does not mean it never happened, so we are keeping our original posts and adding a link to the joint statement by Overlawyered.com and Wolk.
Wolk also sued certain pseudonymous Hit & Run commenters. He recently dismissed the suit against them, which was pending in New York state court, with prejudice, which means he cannot sue them again for the comments that were the subject of that lawsuit.
Note to commenters: This costly and time-consuming litigation is over, and we do not want to see any further lawsuits filed as a result of comments on our site. Because it is impossible for us to screen and monitor all comments, we have disabled them on this post.